THE SAINT HERITAGE OF INDIA is a continuing series devoted to introducing readers - Indian and foreign-to saints from different Indian religious traditions and from different parts of the country. It consists of life-stories of charismatic seekers, saints, teachers, and gurus from the earliest ages to the modern times, encompassing in most cases their literary and spiritual work and the contribution they made to the Indian society.
The tradition of seeking, evaluating, accepting, and following a guru is deeply rooted in Hindu society from the time of the earliest Hindu writings. In Hinduism, it is believed that certain individuals have developed spiritually to the point where they can lead others to liberation (moksha), or give them access to spiritual states either in this life, or after death.
The phenomenon of saints has always exasperated mankind, even as they maintain an ineradicable fascination over imaginations. For the saint is not only outside the normal, he also is in touch with the supernormal.
The series includes well written treatises on these great men and women of India. The series ensures that the authors preserve throughout a well-balanced judgment, and never sacrifice the critical caution to the passion for the subject.
THE name of Ramakrishna has lately been so often mentioned in Indian, American, and English news-papers that a fuller account of his life and doctrine seemed to me likely to be welcome, not only to the many who take an interest in the intellectual and moral state of India, but to the few also to whom the growth of philosophy and religion, whether at home or abroad, can never be a matter of indifference. I have therefore tried to collect as much information as I could about this lately-deceased Indian Saint (died in 1886), partly from his own devoted disciples, partly from Indian newspapers, journals, and books in which the principal events of his life were chronicled, and his moral and religious teaching described and discussed, whether in a friendly or unfriendly spirit.
Whatever may be said about the aberrations of the Indian ascetics to whom Ramakrishna belonged,there are certainly some of them who deserve our interest, nay even our warmest sympathy. The tor-tures which some of them, who hardly deserve to be called Samnyisins, for they are not much better than jugglers or Hathayogins, inflict on themselves, the ascetic methods by which they try to subdue and annihilate their passions, and bring themselves to a state of extreme nervous exaltation accompanied by trances or fainting fits of long duration, are well known to all who have lived in India and have become acquainted there not only with Rajahs and Maharajahs, but with all the various elements that constitute the complicated system of Indian society. Though some of the stories told of these martyrs of the flesh and of the spirit may be exaggerated, enough remains of real facts to rouse at all events our curiosity. When some of the true Samnyasins, however, devote their thoughts and meditations to philosophical and religious problems, their utterances, which sway large multitudes that gather, round them in their own country, cannot fail to engage our attention and sympathy, particularly if, as in the case of Ramakrislvta, their doctrines arc being spread by zealous advocates not only in India, but in America also, nay even in England.
We need not fear that the Samnyasins of India will ever find followers or imitators in Europe, nor would it be at all desirable that they should, not even for of them who deserve our firmest sympathy. The tor-n, who hardly deserve to be are not much better than ;, inflict on themselves, the they try to subdue and ;, and bring themselves to our exaltation accompanied s of long duration, are well lived in India and have e not only with Rajahs and the various elements that xi system of Indian society ories told of these martyrs spirit may be exaggerated, facts to rouse at all events me of the true Samnyasins, thoughts and meditations to us problems, their utterances, ides that gather round them cannot fail to engage our, particularly if, as in the doctrines are being spread not only in India, but in England the of India will in Europe, nor would at they should, not even for the sake of Psychic Research, or for experiments in Physico-psychological Laboratories. But apart .from that, a better knowledge of the teachings of one of them seems certainly desirable, whether for the statesmen who have to deal with the various classes of Indian society, or for the missionaries who are anxious to understand and to influence the inhabitants of that country. or lastly for the students of philosophy and religion who ought to know how the most ancient philosophy of the world, the Vedanta, is taught at the present day by the Bhaktas, that is the friends and devoted lovers of God,' and continues to exercise its powerful influence, not only on a few philosophers, but on the large masses of what has always been called a country of philosophers. A country permeated by such thoughts as were uttered by Ramakrishna cannot possibly be looked upon as a country of ignorant idolaters to be converted by the same .methods which are applicable to the races of Central Africa.
As the Vedanta forms the background of the sayings of Ramakrishna, I thought it useful to add a short sketch of some of the most characteristic doctrines of that philosophy. Without it, many readers would hardly be able to understand the ideals of Ramakrishna and his disciples.
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